In his first two major roles on Broadway, Kingsley Leggs has developed a reputation as the villain you love to hate. He originated the role of the dastardly Mister in The Color Purple, and created the part of the gangster Curtis Jackson in Sister Act, a role he continues to play on tour.
"I feel that Curtis is a lot more than just a gun wielder," he says. "I think the bad side plays itself, so I try to find the humanity in him and address that. I try to remember that underneath everything, he's a complete person like everyone else. When I was playing Mister, I could feel the silent hatred from the audience. I could feel all the women hating me and cringing. But I could also feel them going, 'Hey, you know, maybe I could be the one to change that guy.' That's the tightrope you walk."
Sister Act, with a score by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner and Douglas Carter Beane, and direction by Jerry Zaks, closely follows the plot of the very popular 1992 film on which it's based, while shifting the time and place to 1970s Philadelphia. Nightclub singer Deloris Van Cartier (Ta'Rae Campbell) is hidden away at a convent after witnessing her boyfriend, Curtis, murder an associate. Her reluctance to be there is equaled by the reluctance of the Mother Superior (Hollis Resnik) to have her there, but… well, you know the rest.
The show, Leggs says, brings him unadulterated joy. "It's a fun show to do and it makes people feel good. It's very rewarding as an artist to look out at the end of the night and know that you have really touched people. To see them dancing and smiling and clapping gives meaning to what we do."
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